“Don’t just count your years, make your years count.” — George Meredith

A decade ago — on September 19, 2007 — I started this blog to document my journey as a PhD student in human and organizational systems at Fielding Graduate University. I envisioned it as a personal journal, academic endeavor, and professional platform. Although I withdrew from Fielding, I continued blogging.

A few years later I launched my website, but this blog was my first form of online expression and it has evolved into the anchor of my social media strategy. This blog has been a tool through which I have shared my story; I will continue doing so indefinitely.

As I begin to discover my PhD potential with the University of Leicester, my PhD plans are again becoming a possibility. Once I begin my program this blog will reflect those experiences along with my adventures in academia.  I look forward to the future with optimism and idealism. The worst is over and the best is yet to come.

Speaking of focusing forward, in the first week of the Discovering Your PhD Potential course I was asked to answer the following question: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? In ten years? (Consider carefully whether doing a PhD will help you to fully achieve this, and if so how?). My answers follow:

In five years I will:

  • Defend my doctoral dissertation and start my first year teaching with my PhD.
  • Apply for a promotion from being an instructor to assistant professor at AUE.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle that brings me comfort, calmness, and confidence.
  • Share my life with a partner who fills my soul with faith, hope, and love.
  • Expand my acting to include commercials and voice over work.

In ten years I will:

  • Publish at least ten papers in high quality journals, five book chapters, and two books about social media marketing, sports management, or my related research interests.
  • Work towards a promotion from associate professor to full professor before I turn 55.
  • Celebrate my sons living happy and healthy lives as they embark on adulthood.
  • Produce five online video courses and appear in a half-dozen podcasts.
  • Enjoy financial stability and the ability to travel at least twice per year.

The past decade has dealt me both unplanned obstacles and unexpected opportunities. Trying yet inspiring experiences have broken me while strengthening me. I have grown as a person and a professional; I am changed for the better, despite the scar tissue. This blog has documented these changes and will continue to serve as reflection of my progression. I am eager to make the most of each moment and invite you to join me on my journey.

How do you identify and achieve your goals?

20130222_Me_@_MYLC_with_Dick Elder
With Theta Chi National President Dick Elder (far left) and another alumnus on Friday, February 22, the evening before my session.

In the video below I am presenting an individual goal setting session at the Mid-Year Leadership Conference of Theta Chi Fraternity at UCLA on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

Having helped found the (dearly departed) UC Santa Barbara chapter of Theta Chi it was an honor to participate in this event as an alumnus instructor. Since my birthday was the day before, it was a great gift to share my knowledge with undergraduate members of an organization I admire.

As an undergraduate I attended several events like this so I was well aware how events like this can positively impact personal growth and professional development. I met with a multitude of motivated undergraduates; their earnest desire to improve themselves and their fraternity was inspiring. Events like this made me proud to be a Theta Chi and grateful to be a teacher.

Of course you don’t have to be a member of Theta Chi — or any other fraternal organization — to appreciate what I shared during my session. It is my hope you find value in my presentation beyond the audience for whom I first prepared it.

I welcome your insights and ideas as well; I am a teacher because I am a lifelong learner. It would be my pleasure to learn from and with you as I did on this day with my undergraduate brothers in Theta Chi!

To recap the content in the video:

  • Why setting your goals is important.
  • Goal setting brainstorming and audience interaction.
  • A personal story about how we undermine our goals.
  • How to focus yourself with help from your colleagues.
  • Why setting your goals (not someone else) is important.
  • A personal story about setting my goals after undergrad.
  • Dealing with parents who try to set your goals for you.
  • What happens when you don’t set goals for yourself.
  • How to set and achieve your goals with your I.D.E.A.

You can also view via Slideshare the presentation I used in the above video:

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…”

— The Beatles, Revolution

matthew_gilbert_5

As 2014 draws to a close people start listing resolutions they intend to achieve in 2015. Although well intended, 77% of people who make new year’s resolutions abandon them — many as early as the end of January.

I’ve never been much for making lists of resolutions, though as 2009 started I was inspired by Chris Brogan’s call to list three words that would inspire me and inform my decisions.

Ironically, in the months that followed my life took an unexpected turn that forever changed who I am and how I see the world. My three words were incredibly relevant some of the time, yet totally irrelevant at others. I survived a shock to my system that jarred me out of my comfort zone.

I learned that nothing is certain except the uncertainty of life. Yet, looking back over those five years I also realized something essential to my philosophy of lifelong learning: I evolved. What does that mean?

evolve

If you look at the definition to the left the word that pops out at me is “gradually.” This means change takes time and therefore requires something we all could use more of: patience.

Because most resolutions are transactional they are nearly impossible to achieve unless you precede them with a transformational realignment. If you don’t change how you see yourself and your situation, any short-term goals are doomed to fail because you won’t have an accurate benchmark.

So, with all due respect to The Beatles (see the lyrics to their song Revolution, above), evolution is more realistic than revolution, especially on a personal level.

Am I perfect now? Far from it; I am full of flaws and continuing to evolve as an individual. I suppose that’s the point, right? But I am more aware of myself and more engaged in my life than ever before. I am embracing ambiguity more than before and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The impact has been exceptional, both personally and professionally. Most notably, I relocated 8,000 miles away to Dubai, UAE for a full time teaching position  — just two short weeks after being offered the job(and having never before been to Dubai)!

Although Dubai is westernized in many ways, it has still provided me a wonderful opportunity to experience an entirely different culture than the one with which I was accustomed.

I am endeavoring to become the person who I should be, not who other people want me to be. I refuse to let others define me and decide for me.

I am doing this as much for myself as I am to show my two sons — whom I miss a great deal — that there is a world beyond the boundaries of the city in which they live. I want to inspire them to adventure by my actions. In the spirit of Robin William’s character in Dead Poets Society (John Keating) I embrace a philosophy of “Carpe Diem!”

I understand evolution is a process that happens  — wait for it — gradually. Ask Darwin: evolution is a transformational process that fundamentally changes something over a length of time, not a short period of time.  Just as I will never stop learning, I realize I will never be “done” evolving.

My evolution might have happened naturally as a function of maturity when I turned 40 earlier this year, but the process was was undoubtedly accelerated by the five years before it. While in the midst of the moment I was often overwhelmed with the challenges thrown my way, I now look back with gratitude for having been strengthened as a result.

Certainly you don’t have to go through what I did; you can find inspiration anywhere. If you need a little boost, however, you might enjoy reading the book “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander. You might also find insight by completing the StrengthsFinder analysis; it was fundamental in helping me realize teaching was my perfect profession.

So, will you resolve to evolve in 2015?